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A home for printmakers

By Giselle P. Kasilag

ACKNOWLEDGED as the father of Philippine conceptual art, the late Roberto Chabet’s contribution to the visual arts landscape changed the conversation not only in the Philippines but spilled over to Asia and the rest of the world. Thus, it was a much-lauded tribute when the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) decided to name its latest gallery space on the third floor of the Tanghalang Ignacio Gimenez after the man that the artistic community remembers with respect and fondness.

“We have named the third floor in honor of Roberto Chabet who was one of our first museum directors,” explained Mauro Ariel Yonzon, department manager of the CCP Production and Exhibition Department, at the opening ceremony. “He was actually one of the founders of the Thirteen Artists Awards and, initially, sinimulan nila iyung (they started the) exhibition programs ng (of the) Cultural Center of the Philippines as curatorial projects. That said, we felt that it was befitting to name the space on the third floor of this building in honor of Mr. Chabet.”

The honor of holding the very first exhibition in the space went to the Association of Pinoyprintmakers (AP) which also marked their first show since the pandemic began. The exhibition, entitled “Space/Place,” featured the works of 37 printmakers. The artform, heavily supported by the CCP since the institution was established in 1966, is well-entrenched in the Center especially in its visual arts collection, earning it the first pick for an exhibition in the new gallery.

“It is important to note that the CCP has the best collection of fine prints,” asserted Virgilio “Pandy” Aviado, board member and President Emeritus of the Association of Pinoyprintmakers. “It’s, pardon the pun, an impressive one. And an important one to my mind, it is a treasury of important fine prints which includes both local and international printmakers.”

In the 1990s, the CCP opened its doors to the local printmakers groups, providing a space to hold workshops as well as a headquarters where they may hold office. It attracted artists not just from the regions but from all over the world. Printmakers from Australia to Sweden held lectures and exchanged knowledge with their local counterparts.

The CCP, itself, has a long history with printmakers. Four of its visual arts directors were practitioners of the artform: Ray Albano, Jo Layug, Nonon Padilla, and Mr. Aviado.

“Several years ago, when the lockdown started, the CCP launched its second important portfolio of prints,” he explained. “That publication somehow gave local printmakers and artists an opportunity to make art, and to make the world a better place in spite of what is happening. Tonight, we open the show and it’s a partnership between the CCP and the Pinoyprintmakers.”

Affirming the ties that bind, Benjie Torrado Cabrera, president of the Association of Pinoyprintmakers, announced that the CCP has granted the AP an associate partner member status, bringing the organization officially under the umbrella organization of the Center as a visual arts group.

Given these developments, it is appropriate that the theme of the first exhibition delves into the artists’ definition of space and place. Inspired by Michel Foucault’s Heterotopia, the printmakers were given 20 inches by 20 inches of printable surface to define their concept and understanding of space. The result is a collection of stunning pieces that offer deeply personal and sometimes challenging descriptions of what constitutes one’s defined area.

Participating artists include Marz Aglipay, Leonardo Aguinaldo, Psalm Astejada, Jose Santos Ardivilla, Melai Arguzon, Virgilio Aviado, Luigi Azura, Mars Bugaoan, Elmer Borlongan, Benjie Torrado Cabrera, Kristen Cain, Jandy Carvajal, Salvador Ching, Joey Cobcobo, Salvador Convocar, Noell EL Farol, Jess Flores, Annatha Lilo Gutierrez, Tish Hautea, Eugene Jarque, Villia Jefremovas, Carmel Lim Torres, Little Wing Luna, Angelo Magno, Hershey Malinis, Fara Manuel-Nolasco, Gabi Nazareno, Jamel Obnamia, Samm Occeno, Kr Rodgers, Angela Silva, Jone Sibugan, Jun-Jun Sta. Ana, Suchin Teoh, Wesley Valenzuela, and Anton Villaruel.

“We wish to express our gratitude to the Cultural Center of the Philippines for recognizing printmaking as a major art medium,” Mr. Aviado stressed with much appreciation. “It recognizes the importance of printmaking in nation-building.”

“Space/Place” is ongoing until June 18.

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